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Pride puts focus on mental health

By: Jordan Ross

Posted: 07/5/2019 8:46 PM

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Steinbach Pride board president Chris Plett participates in last year’s march for equality, which this year has made mental health a thematic focus.

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Steinbach Pride board president Chris Plett participates in last year’s march for equality, which this year has made mental health a thematic focus.

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Steinbach Pride organizers have selected "mental wellness" as the theme of this year’s march for equality.

The fourth annual event in support of the local LGBTQ2SIA+ community takes place this Saturday at 11 a.m. in K.R. Barkman Park.

Board president Chris Plett said organizers chose the theme in order to publicize local mental health resources, and destigmatize the decision to seek help for mental health issues.

"The big thing that we wanted to shine a spotlight on is, there is hope that you can feel better. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Things do get better."

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, LGBTQ people experience higher rates of depression, anxiety, suicidality, self-harm, and substance use than the general population, due to discrimination and socio-economic factors.

"We often feel maybe not so much marginalized, but treated differently," Plett said. "We wanted to let people know, things are difficult around the Southeast area."

A mix of local and Winnipeg-based speakers have been booked for this year’s event, including Schinkel Properties manager Justin Schinkel, Pride Winnipeg president Muhammad Ahsan, Romanian-born mental health advocate Louis Gheorghica, and Bethany Visser, a Niverville Collegiate and Providence University College graduate.

Steinbach musician David Graham and street performer Samurai Greg will provide live entertainment.

As with last year, the organizing committee is trying to sidestep party politics.

"We’re not a soapbox. We’re there to deal with the issues," Plett said. "We’re concentrating on the people that we represent."

Politicians weren’t invited, but are welcome to attend.

"We are very much a non-partisan group…There’s no affiliation with any elected officials. If they show up, they show up."

Plett said he maintains an "excellent" relationship with former Steinbach mayor Chris Goertzen, who did not attend a Steinbach Pride march while in office. Organizers have yet to request a meeting with current mayor Earl Funk, Plett said.

Steinbach Pride has made cultural inroads since its inception in 2016, when the city’s first Pride march attracted more than 3,000 people and national media attention.

Three years on, "People are talking more about the celebration of it than they are talking about the controversy that surrounds it," Plett observed. "There are more and more people in Steinbach and the Southeast that are seeing it for what it should be, and that’s a celebration of individuality and equality."

Plett said organizers were encouraged by Morden’s first Pride festival two weeks ago.

"I was really excited to hear that there were other sort of typical Mennonite communities that were stepping out and setting up their own Pride organizations."

Road reconstruction work on Elmdale Street will see Pride supporters take a modified route through downtown this year. Marchers will head down Main Street to Reimer Avenue, jog over one block to Elmdale Street, then loop back to Main Street via Lumber Avenue and finish back at the park.

The bulk of the march will take place on the sidewalk, but northwest-bound lanes of Main Street between McKenzie Avenue and Reimer Avenue will close briefly around 11:30 a.m., Plett said.

Volunteers can email to pride.steinbach@gmail.com, or connect with the group on Facebook.

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